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Meditations on the First Real-Time Spanking Study

Spanking. Many parents do it, but few admit to it. And for those of us who were spanked as children, our reaction is often, “I was spanked, and I turned out alright.”

For me, the road away from spanking was the logical path when leaving violence behind in our lives. I decided that because I wanted my sons to know that violence was never a justifiable way to solve our problems, I needed to show that first through my own actions.

Of course, some parents don’t see that spanking is hypocritical. George Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, recruited parents to audio record their everyday interactions with their children. He didn’t tell them that he was studying spanking. Researchers regularly don’t reveal this, so as not to skew results.

Actually, he didn’t know he was studying spanking. He was looking at parents’ use of yelling, but found regular corporal punishment instead. And parenting rich with irony. Time reports,

One mother in the study hit her toddler after the toddler either hit or kicked the mother, admonishing, ‘This is to help you remember not to hit your mother.’

‘The irony is just amazing,’ says Holden.

Interesting. Of course children act out physically at times. And no, it’s not acceptable. But neither is it reasonable to hit to show hitting is wrong. I’m by no means “Mother of the Year.” I yell, something I work on all the time, as it feels like another tool of violence and control. But surely, you see the problematic parenting in the above example.

Let me put it this way:  if a woman shouldn’t be “corrected” for her behavior by her partner with force, neither should a child. Sure, one could argue that children come into this world with no rules, and it’s our job as parents to guide them and enforce the rules. That’s entirely true. But by that line of thinking, you could say that every person has different rules, and some men (and women, mind you) should be able to “guide and enforce” their partners by hitting.

Hitting another person is unacceptable. I practice that with my boys. When I tell them that hitting is never okay, they believe me. Because they’re not hit. Ever.

And let’s be honest with our terms, here. Spanking is hitting. You’re hitting a child, no matter what you want to call it.

Of course, there is a wide array of how parents employ spanking. Some give the rare “swat.” Others hit their children as a matter of course for every single transgression, then wonder why it’s not effective. My ex liked to use it as a constant looming threat, which was pretty much his style for every interaction. His was the, “If they fear me, they’ll respect me” routine.

Mainly, though, it seems that parents who spank don’t think it’s an issue. The mothers in this study knew they were being recorded, yet still spanked. Wouldn’t you be on your “best behavior”? Perhaps. Unless it’s not something you see as an issue. But check this out,

The recordings feature a mother spanking her 3-year-old son 11 times for fighting with his sister, prompting a fit of crying and coughing. Another mom hits her 5-year-old when he won’t clean up his room. One mom slaps her child when he doesn’t cooperate with the bedtime routine.

Eleven times? And he still didn’t learn hitting was wrong? What’s wrong with that kid?! So say your child is being abusive to his sister. What’s the most logical way to stop the behavior? Why, put him into hysterics after hitting him multiple times!

Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. I used to spank my older child. But as I said, when I left the violence of our past behind, I decided to keep all violence out of our house. It takes work, and I first had to earn back his trust. Now every day, we try different tactics to resolve frustrations. I redirect them. I use firm words. I take away privileges. I give them choices,

‘Choose to calm down and start over or choose to take a break.’

And you know? Sometimes they’d rather have alone time, and it works wonders. These are strong, willful children (wherever did they get that from?). But don’t we all need a break when we’re angry? We certainly need it more than a smack.

Me? I’d love to take the easy way out on my parenting. It’s exhausting at times. Every day, they help me develop patience. And every day, it is entirely worth their trust and love, and the knowledge that I’m raising boys who know that violence isn’t a solution to anything.

Let’s leave spanking where it belongs: between consenting adults.


Source: Feministe

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  1. but is spanking really “the easy way out?” Does it even work. I don’t know. I personally see that about 98% of the kids that are spanked, still misbehave, or simply keep being children who do things that annoy adults. It doesn’t work. And it’s really just violence.

  2. Love the post Cate!

  3. Cate Nelson says:

    Corey, I only called it the “easy way out” because I know the difference between the two. I spanked, then went to hide and deal with my guilt. Parenting without spanking is much, much harder. It takes more work, many more tactics.
    But you and I agree. In the end, it’s just hitting a child: violence.

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